“Urban Indian: Native New York Now” Exhibition

The Museum of the City of New York

poster for “Urban Indian: Native New York Now” Exhibition

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Museum of the City of New York presents Urban Indian: Native New York Now, a new exhibition created in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the American Indian Community House (AICH). The show—which highlights a mix of contemporary artwork, video, and community memorabilia by Native Americans who have made their home in New York City—offers the opportunity for those who live here to reflect on tribal affiliations and the shared meaning of being a Native American in New York today. Urban Indian: Native New York

Like New York City itself, the Native American community here is marked by its plurality: the country’s largest metropolis has residents with ties to a tremendous variety of federally recognized Tribal Nations. In and with this multiplicity of experience, Native people living in New York are building solidarity and social connections across diaspora and difference, engaging in explorations of what it means to be a Native person living and working in this city.

“Through Urban Indian: Native New York Now, visitors will learn more about the diversity of experiences within the Native American community in New York City,” says Whitney Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director and President of the Museum of the City of New York. “It offers everyone a starting point to learn about the flourishing and vibrant contemporary lives of Native Americans in NYC – one that we hope will spark curiosity and encourage people to go deeper and learn more.”

Shared authority, self-representation, and collaboration are at the center of this immersive and nuanced show. Urban Indian presents a wide-ranging sampling of recent cultural and community activities over the last 30 years by Native people who have made their home here. They reflect on tribal affiliations, local histories, community well-being, personal growth, intersectional experiences, and what it means—to them—to be Native.

“When asked to co-curate this exhibition, I was determined to make this a New York City show, not an ‘Indian’ show,” says Jason Lujan, (Chiricahua Apache, Texas), exhibition co-curator, artist and co-founder of Native Art Department International, “As such, it was our intent to create a gallery environment that mirrors what one would experience when stepping into the streets of the City: old and new; fast and slow; predictable and random, peaceful and chaotic, often all at once, everywhere.”

All pieces in Urban Indian: Native New York Now are about or made by members of the Native American community in New York City since the creative and financial boom of the 1980s. Rather than grouping items thematically or chronologically, the exhibition places objects purposely around the gallery to reflect the urban experience of disorder, friction, and flow and allowing the exploration of the plurality of the Native experience in New York and beyond.

“Given the histories of erasure, misrepresentation, and appropriation of Native cultural forms by museums and other cultural institutions, I found it particularly important for me, a non-Native ally co-curating this exhibition, to prioritize Native self-representation,” says Rebecca Hayes Jacobs, Ph.D., Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York. “You will find a lot of quotes from Native residents of New York City because Jason and I were interested in letting Native people speak for themselves to the greatest degree possible.”

Exhibition highlights include contemporary artwork and objects such as:

Final tile design blueprint for Signal, the Mel Chin and Six Nations of the Iroquois and Seneca Tribe member G. Peter Jemison’s site-specific collaboration, designed for MTA NYCT Broadway–Lafayette Street Station; commissioned by MTA Arts & Design (1995)
Pena Bonita’s mixed media and burlap piece, Hanging Out on Iroquois and Algonquin Trails (2015); and Jeffrey Gibson’s spray paint and acrylic works on paper, Red Black and White #4 & #5 (2007);

Historical videos featuring first-person-perspectives such as “Alphabet City Serenade” by poet Diane Burns (1987) and the newly-unearthed and digitized footage of “Two Spirits Speak Out” (1992), an episode of cable TV program The Brenda and Glennda Show that used guerrilla-drag street theater to address LGBTQ politics through humor;
A newly produced video highlighting Louis Mofsie on the Thunderbirds’ 41st Annual Grand Mid-Summer Powwow;
A protest banner from the Indigenous Kinship Collective — a community of Indigenous womxn and femme people who gather to honor themselves and their relatives through art, activism, and education.

A medicine bundle worn by a care provider to Native Americans living with HIV and AIDS (1992);
A theater drop quilt from Spiderwoman Theater (2015)—the oldest continuously running Native American, feminist theater in the world—made at a community workshop in Onondaga, New York. As it was being sewn, participants were guided through conversations about feminism, hope, and what it means to survive; and
Publications such as Native Nations (1991)—a short-lived magazine of the (now defunct) Solidarity Foundation—that shared “news and analysis from Indian Country.”
Urban Indian: Native New York Now was curated by Rebecca Hayes Jacobs, Ph.D., Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, Museum of the City of New York, and Jason Lujan (Chiricahua Apache, Texas), artist and co-founder of Native Art Department International; and designed by Marissa Martonyi. The exhibition was developed with a community leaders group composed of Curtis Davia (San Carlos Apache), Volunteer Executive Director, American Indian Community House; David Martine (Shinnecock/Montauk, Chiricahua Fort Sill Apache), artist and Director/Curator, Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum and Chairperson, AMERINDA; Diane Fraher (Osage/Cherokee), filmmaker and Founder and Director, AMERINDA; G. Peter Jemison (Seneca, Heron Clan), artist and Director of Ganondagan State Historic Site and Seneca Museum; Louis Mofsie (Hopi-Winnebago), Director and Founding Member, Thunderbird American Indian Dancers; Muriel Miguel (Kuna/Rappahannock), Founder and Director, Spiderwoman Theater; and Rick Chavolla (Kumeyaay), Board Chair, American Indian Community House.



from October 15, 2019 to February 15, 2020

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